EGYPT'S MOST FAMED FAKIR 123
penetrated the coffin in which he was encased and destroyed a part of his body."
"How do you explain that, Doctor?"
He turned away from me to look out of the window. I followed his gaze and saw that it rested on the Nile, that wondrous river which has fed and supported millions of people through thousands of years, which has taken Egypt into its kindly arms as into a father's. Then he turned back.
"I have two theories. The first is that the preparations before entombment were not properly carried out. A fakir who is to undergo such a long interment should have his body completely covered with soft wax, as though a wax cast were being taken of the entire body. Then he should be deposited in a closed and sealed coffin out of which ail dust has been drawn as though by a vacuum cleaner. Poor Said did not have these precautions taken. My theory is that the hole in his coffin had been made by a snake, of a very small but powerful species which exists in Egypt; that this snake had crawled inside, and over his body, eventually making its way into one of his nostrils and thence penetrating to the brain. This injury to Said's body would have allowed oxygen to enter his body. I attribute part of the efficacy of the cataleptic state to the fact that it deprives the body of oxygen. I am confident that so long as oxygen is kept out of the entranced body, no microbe, and even no worm, will touch it. The result of this entry was that he lost, to some extent, his defence of catalepsy against worms. These crept into the coffin and began to live upon the flesh, first making their way to the inside organs."
Dr. Tahra Bey had painted a ghastly picture of the dangers which await the fakir who does not successfully conclude his voluntary interment. One began to understand why the ancient Egyptians, wishing to preserve their royal and aristocratic and priestly dead, not only embalmed and mummified their bodies, but also enclosed them in thick stone sarcophagi, of almost indestructible granite which it was impossible to penetrate.
"After this you will understand why one must characterize as nonsense the criticisms that, when I perform my own feat of being buried, I have secret pipes conveying air to me. When I was some years younger, I let myself be buried for one hour in an open-ail garden, and people danced over my grave. Nevertheless, my object is not to astonish people as do stage